So I love anthologies but I hate short stories (most of the time.)
The anthology aspect is what made me want this book – the idea of a collection of some of my favourite authors and some new ones all in one place makes me hyperventilate with excitement. It’s like an all you can eat buffet where you can have a little bit of what you know and love, and then be daring and try something completely new that you’ve always looked at and never picked up before.
However, short stories and I really do not get along. There is a very fine line with them, where they either are brilliantly constructed, or they end up not working. So many short stories just leave me feeling dissatisfied because there are too many questions unanswered, too many possibilities and things left unsaid. It aggravates me and makes me want to go and find out what happened next and that’s where it stops being a short story and turns into a novel.
This is why this particular anthology was a little bit hit and miss with me. The finding new authors that I want to read more of part worked perfectly, I now have a long list of new books I want to get. However, so many of these stories were short stories hidden in amongst novels already written and out there – great if you already know the rest of the story, but irritating if you don’t. As a result I was left feeling a bit put out and lost, because I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
The other side were the stories that were amazing, fresh new characters and concepts, but so much more story to tell than would fit in the pages offered here. So I was left feeling quite bummed after reading, despite the brilliant stories I’d read.
Don’t get me wrong the writing is brilliant, and I am so glad I got this book just so I could read more of some of my favourite authors, but I don’t think it quite did what I wanted it to.
The notable exception was Sarah Rees Brennan’s short story ‘Let’s Get This Undead Show On The Road’ which was perfection. New characters and a new setting to her novels, this was a completely fresh story, which meant that I didn’t feel left behind on back story. The story was brilliantly dark and funny and had a beginning, middle and an end – I know this seems obvious, but whilst I would have quite happily read more about the band, I wasn’t left with the feeling that I’d been cheated and where the hell was the rest of it. It was brilliant. I love Christian, the morale vampire who could really do with some very serious hugging. Josh who could also do with some serious hugging for being so adorably nerdy, (no one does adorable nerd like SRB) Bradley, who is just made of glittery awesome and knock knock jokes, and Pez, who should perhaps stay away from any household cleaning products in future…
Other fabulous tales included Melissa Marr’s ‘Merely Mortal’ which offered another glimpse into the setting and characters of ‘Wicked Lovely’ and Carrie Ryan’s ‘Scenic Route’ which whilst the setting was from her trilogy of novels, the characters and plot were entirely new.
For making me weep, ‘Bridge’ by Jeri Smith-Ready should get a mention, and I am so getting her novels to find out more about the characters. It was compelling, exceptionally well written, and deeply moving.
The story that perhaps irritated me the most – and see that as a compliment – was ‘The Third Kind’ by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Oh good lord was it awesome, but where the hell was the rest of it??? Seriously, I want a novel out of that story, because there was so much more I wanted to know! The characters were brilliant and funny and real, and the scenario was just so intriguing. I was just incredibly peeved that there wasn’t more!
All in all this was a brilliant collection of stories that gave me the opportunity to window shop some more young adult authors that I haven’t had the chance to read yet. Yes there were irritations and upsets, but they were mostly out of wanting more of them, which I suppose is a round-about compliment really… Anyway, I highly recommend it, either as a window shopping tool, or to just get more of your favourite authors, and prepare to be swept away on some fairly epic journeys.(less)
Bound by blood, condemned by fate As a bloodtracker, Liv is extremely powerful. And in a world where power is a commodity that can get you killed, Liv's learnt to survive by her own rules. Rule number one? Trust no one. But when a friend's daughter goes missing, Liv is bound by a potent magical oath. She can't rest until the child is safe. And that means trusting her dangerous ex, Cam. A sinister prophecy tells that she and Cam will be the death of each other, yet Liv's tired of being a slave to destiny. She's ready to play the forces controlling her world at their own game. No matter what the cost. I really enjoyed Rachel Vincent’s young adult series about Banshees, so I was curious to see what happened when the stakes were upped and we went on to adult. And oh my word, it was epic. I mean, the young adult series is brilliant, but now it kind of feels like there was something missing, and that missing component was in ‘Blood Bound’. The setting was brilliant – a dark gritty place that felt like it was never fully light in my imagination. It was brilliant, a city split into three with two major powers fighting for allegiances over a dwindling number of people that are free. The entire concept appealed to me on every level. Liv was a hard fighting girl with a softer side, but one who wasn’t afraid to do nasty things to people who hurt those she loved. She comes across really well, pitched absolutely brilliantly so she doesn’t come across as an unfeeling bitch, but is hard enough that the respect she’s garnered is completely believable. I liked the changing perspectives between Liv and Cam – I did find Cam’s voice a little bit too feminine to start with, but it settles down further into the novel and completely swept me away. The host of secondary characters are really well constructed and provide a wealth of backstory that really drives the plot forward. And the plot, oh wow. It’s just bursting with awesomeness. The whole premise of Skilled people and the different types of skills. I loved Liv being able to track people by their blood, but I’m afraid the Traveller’s really took it for me – walking through one shadow and coming out in another shadow anywhere you want? Oh I want a Skill please… I loved that you literally couldn’t trust anyone. Seriously, the twists and turns and punches to the gut had me reeling all the way through. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on how things may go, Vincent completely whips the rug out from under you. The only thing I found a little bit frustrating was the pacing. There’s all this fabulous build up, and then I realized that there were only 40 or so pages left of the book, and it just didn’t seem like enough time to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Vincent does actually pull it off, and exceptionally well, and maybe that brief amount of time makes everything that much quicker and gut wrenching, but I did feel like I wanted a little more of it. With the promise of a second book ‘Shadow Bound’ I am completely on board with this series – it’s everything I love in an urban fantasy book, and I can’t wait to see where Vincent takes this next.(less)
A word of advice, don’t read this book at night, when you’re all alone… Because a) you won’t be able to stop reading until you’ve finished the book and b) you won’t sleep until it’s light. Because it’s terrifying. Actually it’s equal parts genius humour, high terror and paranormal fantasy, and it’s fabulous.
This has been one of those books that has been on my to read list ever since Maureen Johnson announced it. I didn’t even need anything else to recommend it to me. Of course then I read the blurb and saw that gorgeous cover and I was desperate to get my mitts on it.
The main character, Rory is brilliant. She’s funny, smart, and actually useful! I dislike heroines that can’t find their way out of a paper bag, but Rory has courage by the bucket-load, and scathing comments for any situation!
I have to admit I found the explanations of the English School system a little out of place, but that was just me personally because I’m English and know the system through and through. For people who aren’t familiar with the system, it immediately offers an in to the situation – I just wish there was something similar for Brits reading books set in American schools. I did love Rory’s views and insights into the stereotypical British boarding school – complete with hockey no matter the weather. It made me laugh out loud over some of the commentary.
I felt like some of the characters were a little bit glossed over – Rory, Boo and Jazza are brilliantly realistic, but I wasn’t convinced by some of the boys. I just wanted a bit more to make them seem real for me – but hopefully we might get some more of that in the next book.
I loved all the different elements of the book, starting off as American girl coming over to English boarding school in London, moving into the terrifying Ripper phase, and then coming round into the supernatural element. Each part complemented the next perfectly, and everything fits together seamlessly.
I also loved spotting little bits – like Cousin Diane who has statues of angels in her backyard, which spring directly from Johnson and following her on Twitter. It’s little bits like that that you read and go ‘yeah I know a little bit about that’ and it gives you an extra chuckle – like the Maureen in Cassie Clare’s book ‘City of Fallen Angels’ and Jace appearing in Holly Black’s ‘Red Glove’. For me that just makes it even more awesome – it’s a little cupcake for twitter followers and general obsessors…
Johnson's writing is brilliant, she draws you into the narrative and wraps you up completely in her tale. Whilst most of the book is from Rory's point of view, there are a few parts where you get extra moments around the murders by the Ripper, that just add a little more insight into what's happening outside around Rory. The whole thing is absolutely terrifyingly once the murders really get going and the ripper mania takes hold completely, juxtaposed against the complete normalcy of the boarding school life. And it's brilliant.
All told this was a really good book – I haven’t been completely sold on some of Maureen Johnson’s books in the past, but this is pitch perfect and exactly what I wanted. Just the right amount of English boarding school, paranormal terror and so much potential for expansion in the following books. I just need to make sure not to read the next one at night…(less)
"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not."
"Opens at Nightfall; Closes at Dawn." The Le Cirque des Rêves is a circus unlike any other, just as this magical debut novel is equally unique. At the centre of The Night Circus spectacle are two specially gifted young magicians, Celia and Marco, pitted against each other in professional competition, drawn towards one another in love. Erin Morgenstern's literary fantasy has already drawn raves for its captivating evocativeness: "A world of almost unbearable beauty.... A love story on a grand scale: it creates, it destroys, it ultimately transcends." "A novel so magical that there is no escaping its spell... If you choose to read just one novel this year, this is it."
This book was absolutely incredible. In fact, unless something insane happens in the next few months, this book will end up being my book of the year. Just look at the other books I’ve read and see what it’s beaten out to get to that spot… That’ll give you an idea of just how awesome this book is.
First of all lets talk about the presentation, because that was a really pleasant surprise when I opened the package. First you’ve got this fabulous hardback book with that gorgeous dust jacket on. But not only that the hardback underneath is a beautiful red with embellishment, the pages are black edged, and it even has a little red ribbon to mark your page in the book. Before I even started reading it, I was utterly smitten with it. I stroked it, I petted it, I introduced it to my family and friends, and then I started to read.
The prose is incredible. It’s this beautifully epic book that sprawls across time, place and characters and builds into this crescendo of imagination and magic.
And Morgenstern’s imagination? The things in this book, the tents upon tents in the circus filled with incredible ideas and concepts is mind blowing. I didn’t ever want this book to end, I just wanted to keep reading, to keep finding more and learning more and never emerge from this world again. It’s like the idea of the circus, of the effect it has on people, and this book creates the same effect.
The stories are brilliantly intertwined, with a running narrative of your own trip to the circus, Bailey’s past and the stories of Marco, Celia and the circus and everyone involved, all heading towards a breath taking culmination. And they are such elegant threads. You're not really sure where they're going or how they relate, and there are time jumps that sometimes throw you a bit when you're particularly immersed, but actually it's a simply stunning construction. Morgenstern knows precisely how to play her audience, and this book shows that. It's immense and quiet, and epic all at the same time, and it made me want to cry some parts were just so unbelievable.
I don’t really want to talk about the events in the book, because part of what I loved was not knowing what on earth was going to happen, and just relishing the journey and finding out page by page. So instead I just want to say how beautiful it was. The prose was exquisite, the characters incredible, and the imagination behind the construction and detail was absolutely stunning. I never wanted it to end, and having finished I just want to go back and re-read it. You know when it feels like something you've read has become part of you, so attached that it feels impossible to imagine yourself without it - when the story has touched you in ways that you haven't felt from a book in a while? This is how I feel about this book. I want to buy a kindle copy so I can have it with me wherever I go, and then my hardback copy to appreciate the sheer beauty in its construction.Because honestly, whoever designed the cover/entire spectacle of the book had read the book itself and understood the incredible things contained within the pages. The black fading into grey, the contrast between the black and the white - and the shock of red to mark your place in the circus when you leave it for a while.
Read this book. It’s stunning, incredibly constructed, and a brilliant story that will draw you in. I couldn’t actually find anything I didn’t like or would have liked to see more of – it was perfection as far as I’m concerned, and has shot straight up to become one of my top books of all time.
Let me leave you with two of many of my favourite moments in the book. First an act from the circus:
The woman wears a dress something akin to a bridal gown constructed for a ballerina, white and frothy and laced with black ribbons that flutter in the night air. Her legs are encased in striped stockings, her feet in tall black button-up boots. Her dark hair is piled in waves upon her head, adorned with sprays of white feathers. Her companion is a handsome man, somewhat taller than she, in an impeccably tailored black pinstriped suit. His shirt is a crisp white, his tie black and pristinely knotted. A black bowler hat sits upon his head. They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing. “They cannot be real,” someone nearby remarks. Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch.
And secondly a description of the clock that hangs at the gates of the circus:
But that is before it is wound. Before it begins to tick, the pendulum swinging steadily and evenly. Then, then it becomes something else. The changes are slow. First, the color changes in the face, shifts from white to grey, and then there are clouds that float across it, disappearing when they reach the opposite side. Meanwhile, bits of the body of the clock expand and contract, like pieces of a puzzle. As though the clock is falling apart, slowly and gracefully. All of this takes hours. The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played. At the center, where a cuckoo bird would live in a more traditional timepiece, is the juggler. Dressed in harlequin style with a grey mask, he juggles shiny silver balls that correspond to each hour. As the clock chimes, another ball joins the rest until at midnight he juggles twelve balls in a complex pattern. After midnight the clock begins once more to fold in upon itself. The face lightens and the clouds return. The number of juggled balls decreases until the juggler himself vanishes. By noon it is a clock again, and no longer a dream. (less)
This may be the single most terrifying book I have ever read. Not because it’s particularly scary or gruesome, but because Magary has captured the essence of how the world could turn out when faced with a cure for ageing perfectly.
John Farrell is your perfectly average guy – a lawyer, reasonably attractive, the sort of guy who probably wastes half his life surfing youtube in his spare time for something to do. He gets the cure, on a whim mostly. He hates the idea of death, of growing old, and so he takes the plunge, and spends several thousand dollars being injected with the cure. His cure age – 29.
A chain of events has been set in motion, where the cure for ageing has been discovered, where it’s illegal but a series of protests and bombings eventually force the presidents hand to make the cure legal. John documents the entire thing, not because he’s particularly well connected or influential, but mostly out of a lack of anything else to do. The book is a series of entries by John himself, interviews and articles of the day, and daily round ups of news.
We follow John over the course of the sixty years the cure is in existence and legal, as he charters the highs and lows, the terrifying moments where the world loses all of its sanity, and through the moments where the world seems so empty and meaningless. Magary has a truly brilliant imagination – terrifying but brilliant – and it truly felt real watching the self-destruction of the world. Every little detail – right down to which countries would react how, and who would nuke who first.
My only frustration was that sometimes it skipped about a little bit and I wanted more. For example, the book is divided into several sections chartering the rise and fall of the cure in all its stages, and twenty odd years could pass at a time, and I felt like I missed things. The important things would be reference to, but it didn’t feel like enough sometimes.
Some of the editing is a little rough, there are passages that are missing words so they don’t quite work, but for the most part the writing is seamless. It’s an engaging narrative that is brutal in its attack on the concept, and I was almost surprised when I looked outside my window and saw a world not ravaged by humanity. It was like watching our current trajectory but in fast forward with a lot of really terrifying moments and people thrown into the mix. Magary examines everything from world powers, religions, terrorist groups who are both pro-death and pro-cure. He takes the world we know and just takes it further – and it’s fantastic.
One of the things I really loved was that John doesn’t stop to explain anything. Sometimes things become clear, sometimes they don’t – but I didn’t want them explained because it would have polluted the narrative into something that didn’t seem organic and as though John was just jotting it down in his spare time.
It’s a truly incredible book. It looks at this new fad we have for immortality, and breaks it down to its bare bones – the hard realities and truths of what we would do with immortality if it was offered to us – cycle marriages, drinking, gambling, sex… An endless round of the life of the twenty and thirty somethings. But with old souls. It’s a brilliant examination of life and what we do with it. (less)
Anyone who is a fan of Tamora Pierce will adore this debut novel by the exceptionally talented Rae Carson. As a child I couldn’t get enough of Tamora Pierce, and I’ve spent my life looking for other authors who can do to me what she does – Maria V Snyder comes exceptionally close, but Rae Carson has just run way into the lead. We’ve got an incredible fantasy world that is close enough to our own that it doesn’t require too much explanation, a strong and incredibly loveable female lead, yummy men galore, and a quest that would be enough to make the strongest man faint, but merely makes Elisa roll up her sleeves and get on with it.
Carson doesn’t spoon feed, she gives you enough information to set you up, and then a gentle shove into the plot with instructions to get going, and it works beautifully. Not once did I feel bogged down in exposition, the plot swept me up, kept me interested, and provided information where I needed.
Every character is flawed – some fatally so – but it feels like such an honest portrayal of the human spectrum, that the characters felt more real than they often can in fantasy. At moments it is achingly beautiful – full of raw human emotion, stripped back and desperate. Elisa is so full of love, and so blinded by her own insecurities and demons that she cannot see her own self-worth – but she’s filled with such loyalty and compassion that I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Elisa is, as I’ve said, a fascinating character. She isn’t so much spoiled at the start of the novel, as unaware of much outside her own sphere of pre-conceptions and self-pity. However, she grows up fast following her marriage and her humility solidifies her as a strong female character. She may not realize it for a while, but as her perception changes, she matures. She’s so capable, so strong, so determined that the world must be set to rights. And so sure of the way forward – even if she isn’t always sure of herself. She was incredible to watch as her transformation took place – from self centred princess, who was convinced everyone thought her a disappointment, to strong, capable and independent woman who will do anything to protect her country and her people, even if inside she is crippled with fear.
The plot is incredibly intricate – faith guides everyone, it sets in motion this phenomenal chain of events. The religion is absolutely vital to the story – it is what guides it and binds this mix of characters together. Everyone has some basis of religion that defines them and their actions, and the novel wouldn’t succeed without it. The idea of God is never questioned; what is examined is the idea of faith and belief, what they do to people and how people respond to them. If you loved Tamora Pierce’s books you won’t have a problem with the religion in this book – that’s been one thing people have commented on in other reviews I’ve seen. The religious aspects are not forced on you as a reader or rammed down your throat, they’re merely accepted as a part of life – similarly to Alanna and her conversations with the Gods. It’s an integral part of the story and as such doesn’t single the book out as being particularly religious.
And one of the things that really scored points for Carson in my book, is the way she is totally not afraid to go there – no matter where there is. Ripping your heart out? Got it. Horrifically real ideas of war, wounds, and infection? We’ve got plenty. The little moments where things just don’t go right and you want to hug Elisa for still trying? Got those too. It dares to go that step further than Tamora Pierce’s books, and takes you from safe fantasy to harder more adult moments.
The only thing I wasn’t entirely sold on was the idea of body image that runs throughout. Elisa is described as fat – she comfort eats whenever she is upset or depressed – and she feels no burning desire to do anything about her image, she just remains incredibly upset by it. So when her image does begin to change through circumstance, she’s thrilled. I wasn’t convinced it was an entirely healthy idea of body image to promote. I could understand completely her sentiment and feelings, but I remained slightly wary of the idea throughout. I’ll be curious to hear what other people made of it.
I’m not going to lie, if I had seen this cover on Amazon or a book store, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. (The other covers for this book, totally different story, I love them!) Which is why I am so glad that this was sent to me. This world, the characters, the plot, they pulled me in within the first few pages. I could not stop reading. And by the time I’d finished I just felt so incredibly lucky that I’d read this book – that I’d had the chance to step inside Elisa’s world and live her story with her for a while.
The ending leaves room for a sequel (oh please god let there be a sequel!) and I really hope that Carson continues to tell Elisa’s tale. I adored this book, and I’m impatiently getting through the other books I need to read so that I can go back and re-read it, and absorb it again.
A breath taking debut with one of the strongest heroines I’ve seen in fantasy in a very long time.(less)
When I first caught sight of this book, I nearly passed it over, after all from the first sentence it looked just like another fifty first dates type of thing. But then I got to the bit about seeing the future, and I got curious. And boy am I glad I did. This book was brilliant.
I raced through it in a matter of hours, because it was a really engaging story with a brilliant idea and extremely well-constructed characters.
The writing is really simple, almost conservative with word use, but it’s incredibly effective. London is a brilliantly created character, with a clear cut voice and was instantly likeable. She never whinges about her situation, although at several points she’d have plenty of cause to. She’s a down to earth sensible heroine, who doesn’t have self-esteem issues, nor is she particularly vain. She’s just normal, and takes her problem in her stride, dealing with it in a really constructive fashion.
I was particularly impressed how she handled the knowledge about events that would happen to those around her – she tried to change the bad where she could, but didn’t go off the deep end, just kept a clear head knowing that at some point everything would be ok. I loved those little titbits though, the pieces of information she gives about each person she meets – why she knows them, and what will happen to them, it was fascinating.
Patrick treads a very fine line between teenage angst and teenage normalcy, and she comes out pitch perfect. The characters are so believable, without falling into stereotypes, and they’re all flawed and human as well as having really brilliant facets. They’re brilliantly constructed.
And swoonworthy – don’t forget swoonworthy. And yes I’m looking at you Luke. He’s a really good construct, because he’s dreamy, but he’s a bit weird, he’s kind, caring and compassionate, but he can also be a bit of a jerk too. He felt real.
I wasn’t so convinced by the adults portrayed, and it would have been good to see more development of them, but otherwise the characterization was near flawless.
The plot was brilliantly paced, intricate, and fresh – this isn’t your average young adult fare. It did become a little bit rushed towards the end, and so I would have liked to have a bit more time spent drawing that out, but it works well as it is. The book works really well as a standalone, but if there’s a sequel I would pick it up without any hesitation.
This was a gem of a find from trawling through random Amazon suggestions, and I’m so glad I gave it a second look - it’s beautiful, compelling, and stays with you after you’ve turned the last page.(less)
I had certain expectations of this book after reading the blurb on the book (different to the blurb I’ve included) – it looked like it would be good, but more of a summer read rather than anything my jaw dropped over. I was so completely wrong, the blurb really doesn’t do the book justice.
I liked De La Cruz’s young adult series ‘Blue Bloods’ although it’s been a while and a few new books since I last read some of it, and as a first adult offering I thought the book was a brilliant cross over. It tackled older characters, a lot more sex, and some intriguing themes that I wasn’t expecting, and the whole thing was just so much more than I’d been anticipated. It was like thick bread and soup rather than a salad.
The prologue offers an intriguing start, slow and quiet, but intriguing nonetheless and serves as a brilliant hook. Once we’re into the main body of the novel it does take its sweet time – but I like it when an author does that. I want to get to know the characters, I want to care about them so that when everything kicks off later on, I worry and shriek over them.
And the characters are really well constructed – everyone slots in, everyone has a place – and I loved that small town element of the book. I really cared about each of the three girls, no favourites here – although I will admit to being swayed over Freya getting to spend more time with Killian… What can I say, it’s the leather jackets!
And oh good lord the sheer amount of mythology and historical interweaving. I love the Salem ties, and the Norse mythology was brilliantly interwoven. My only complaint was that a lot of the Norse stuff came in very late in the story. That did up the ante and really race the book along to its conclusion, but it tended to be a little overwhelming too, so I had to re-read a few passages to make sure I was fully up to speed.
However, that was only a minor gripe. It reminded me a lot of ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller – the closed off feeling of the town, the slow build and suffocation of it all. But I also liked the differences – the well wishes and love sent by the townsfolk. It really felt a little bit like a modern day crucible. So yes, all in all I loved it. I would have liked a little more of a lead up to the mythology that came crashing in at the end, but it’s all set up brilliantly for a sequel which I am eagerly anticipating. I highly recommend it, and was pleasantly surprised by the layers and depth I found reading it. Definitely a series to watch out for.(less)
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The first two thirds were stunning – the language was deceptively simple but really beautifully constructed, the tension was high, and everything about it was just brilliant. However, after this point something lost me. I’m not sure if I was tired, or whether the style shifted – but around the point where YET ANOTHER BAD THING HAPPENED, and continued to happen (there was a string of really bad things happening to the boys for a while) the book lost me. It just reached a point where it seemed too insane to even contemplate, not that I stopped caring about the awful things happening to the two boys.
It was still interesting, and it wasn’t to the point that I gave up and put the book down for the night, but my attention definitely wavered, and I regarded the more bad things as a bit ludicrous, rather than upping the ante on the stress factor. It was like watching the film ‘Serendipity’ – where you just want to scream at how close it all comes to being all right so many times, and they just miss each other!
Then the book picks up a bit, and it swept me up into the action again – although I wasn’t quite as taken as the first part of the book, it was still great to get lost in the story again. But then the end did something horrible. And I’m not talking about the end of the book what happens, I mean the style in which it’s covered. It was like one of those movie montages where you freeze frame on each character and get a summary of what happens to them. It just felt so disjointed, and after such a beautiful start to the book it made me want to cry that it didn’t get the ending I felt it deserved.
Which made me start thinking, why was I left so dissatisfied? Except obviously for the ending, which I’ve already explained. And I started to realize that it was partly the characters. In the first part of the book I was so swept up in how gorgeous and brilliant it all was that I didn’t really think about it, but my mind started to wander later on, and it felt like some of the characters weren’t given enough depth to make me really care. They were just there as tools, not as people.
For example Bobby Ellis starts out not all that bad – little bit creepy I grant you, but essentially an alright kind of guy. Then he turns into the comedic caricature where really ridiculously bad things happen to him because he’s such a bad person. Only it just seemed out of place and ridiculous because there was no build-up of bad person, it just suddenly happened.
Which made me look at the rest of the characters, and with the exception of Sam, Riddle and to some extent Emily, they all seemed to be there as flat plot devices – they had no depth to make me care about them. They had backstory and other little bits, but it didn’t seem to be enough. They were more cut out silhouettes with a specific purpose than people that I cared about.
However the writing was for the most part simplicity at its best – an array of perfect pieces of prose that made you really feel for the two brothers in their unfair world. I loved the connections, the points of meeting for a multitude of characters, although at times it felt like there wasn’t enough time to get to know each of them properly – and this was where they turned into cut outs. There to further the story and serve a purpose rather than being there in their own right.
So as I said, I’m torn. I wanted to love this book. In fact I started out loving this book, but somewhere along the way it lost me. And that’s just me and my personal preferences, but I’m really disappointed that we broke up part way through. However, the first half was completely spot on, and I’m going to remember that when I look back on this.(less)
This book was a bit of a step away from the first in the series ‘The Rest Falls Away’. I loved the first book because it was a combination of two of my favourite things – vampires with some regency romance thrown in. It was brilliantly written and very engaging with enough danger to make it really exciting.
I was expecting more of the same from ‘Rises the Night’ but it was a lot darker and scarier than the first. It was a very sad note on to end the first book, so I wasn’t expecting high romance, balls and fabulous gowns. Ok I tell a lie, I was expecting a bit of that, but I didn’t really get it. I loved the entrance to high london society we had in book one, so in a way it was good to have a change of pace and setting, but I did find myself missing the relative safety of the ton.
Victoria fairly quickly finds herself in Italy, where EVERYONE seems to be up to no good. I kept trusting new characters and then wishing that I hadn’t. I mean seriously, was Italy just filled with people wanting to be vampires? Actually that wouldn’t surprise me…
So yeah, lots of bad people, even worse situations, and a few people I used to trust turned traitor. I had kittens over a lot of what happened, and seemed to spend most of it in a state of high tension convinced no one was ever going to get out alive. I was wrong – mostly – but it did leave me wanting a break before I launched into the third book.
I love Victoria, and this continuation of her character growth, particularly her through her grief was brilliantly handled. She irritated me, but it didn’t make me dislike her, it was more a ‘silly girl what did you do that for? Here have a blanket and some tea’ irritation. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how the events of the second book affect her through the third book, and how she handles the new problems she’ll face.
Ah Sebastian, I could spend hours shaking you just to see if you retaliate/get some sense knocked into your head. I go from page to page genuinely unsure about his actions and motives. I just don’t trust him, even when he seems to be trying to help Victoria, it’s just all one twisted game. That does frustrate me, as whilst I like the uncertainty with him to a point, there does come a moment where it just feels like I won’t trust anything he does ever, because you can guarantee he won’t actually be being helpful in the way he’s meant to be. I’d like to see more character development with him, and a bit more consistency, otherwise no matter how yummy and seductive he is, I will just lose interest in him.
Overall I loved the book, it was darker, it was scarier, and there is never a moment where you feel that the outcome will be predictable. There are so many twists it’s untrue, and it’s all one big rollercoaster of a ride. I miss London, and hope the books will take us back there soon, but in the meantime I love the development and set up and am looking forward to seeing what Victoria does next.(less)
I’m a big fan of chick lit – I fight the corner incessantly, trying to prove that it isn’t all fluff and bad metaphors for sex. There are some truly brilliant books that fall into the chick lit category – unfortunately this isn’t one of them.
Everything about this book screams light fluffy romance, from the cover to the highly amusing blurb. This is the only reason I picked it up, expecting the same well worn, but good plots that involve romance, humour, twists and a happily ever after. And I suppose you do get that, but there’s also a lot of bad stuff in between that really isn’t necessary.
The first part of the book made me so depressed I debated just putting it down and never looking at it again. It was miserable, the situation was pants, and you wonder how Jo is even getting up in the morning with her attitude and the bad things that have been going on.
Then we meet Dan! Yay love interest! Witty banter! Excellent, finally this book is picking up! And then we get a chapter from Dan’s childhood which made me morbidly depressed again.
Whilst we get Jo’s intermittently light story, it’s interspersed with Dan’s background told from child Dan’s perspective, about his abusive father. As the tale of abuse unfolds and we see how bad family life is, I began to wonder why on earth the author had chosen to do this. By all means make the hero tortured and brooding with a past – it keeps them interesting. But this was too much. It was heavy, it was horrible, and it was not what I wanted in my ‘light reading’. If I want miserable stories I will go to the ‘painful stories’ section in Waterstones. As it is, I’ve never been big on wallowing in other people’s misery, I want to be cheered up or amazed by a book. Shocking I know.
It seemed like two different books that had been smushed together. The light fluff and the hard hitting abusive childhood, and she couldn’t pick which one so she just rammed them together and hoped it stuck. It really didn’t.
Once Dan and Jo get flirting the book picks up, the humour is there, the pace is better, and everything runs a lot more smoothly. Of course then there’s the typical tragic twist that results in everything going tits up. But by that point I just didn’t care.
I finished this book out of a morbid desire to see whether it would be redeemable. It wasn’t, and it’s put me off wanting to read any more of Linda Green’s books.
The actual chick lit romance at the core was very good, and if she’d stuck to that then this could have been a really good book – the characters were believable and well rounded, and I could actually sympathise with them. Unfortunately it felt that the further in we got, the more the author wished she was writing the hard hitting abuse story, and the more depressing it got.
If you want a combination of depressive real life and fluff then this is the book for you. However if you, like me, are looking for the next chick lit to make the world seem a fuzzier place, I advise you to steer well clear.(less)
This book was kind of split for me. Ultimately I loved it, but it was a bit of a bumpy road along the way.
The first hundred pages or so was a complete turn off for me – the dialogue was awkward at best, and I found Kate pretty much unlikeable. I understood that she was grieving, but as a reader I should still be able to sympathise and find a way to like her, and to start with I really found it hard. Combine that with the dialogue, which just felt stilted and weird and completely unnatural, I very nearly put the book down.
However, something magical happens after those first hundred pages. Our heroine finds out our hero’s secret, and everything magically becomes really really good…
The premise is genius I love it, it was a brilliant new take on the supernatural, and I am all for the new takes, because I love my supernatural but reading the same stories churned out in different forms gets boring after a while. There were definite comparisons to Twilight – the immortal boy, the fabulous house, never been in love before, family of strangers that have grown to be family etc. etc. I know it’s probably harsh to compare it to Twilight, because I’m sure that concept has been used long before Twilight existed, but it still felt a little clichéd, which was frustrating because otherwise it was such a fresh idea.
That said, I love the family – it was a great touch, a solid basis of characters to bring Kate to meet, and they provide a great family backdrop. And once Kate is brought into this world, everything (including the dialogue) get a hell of a lot better. There are still the odd stumbling points where I winced at how forced it sounded, but overall it was so much better.
I like how strong Kate is, I like that she refuses to just fall for Vincent, and she wants a normal life. (Three cheers for strong independent women in fiction with supernatural boyfriends!) I love that she even walks away from him because she doesn’t want to get hurt (and she sticks with it for a while!) All this made me forgive her for the first hundred pages, because suddenly I did like her, I could identify with her, and I actually cared.
Vincent was yummy, although I think she should have given the other boys a chance too… But then I think I may just have a soft spot for Jules.
I wasn’t convinced by the family dynamic between Kate and Georgia. At times it felt clichéd, at others perfectly natural, and at others completely what just happened? I didn’t really connect with Georgia at all which meant I found it hard to care about her at the end, or want to forgive her for her mood swings. In all honesty it felt like I read two different books. A really pants beginning to one that I gave up on after a hundred pages, and a really awesome second one that had me hooked.
So, the awesomeness of the rest of the novel has tipped this book firmly back into the love pile, and I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s a sequel or anything, because whilst it was nice neat bow at the end, there were will plenty of loose ends that I would love to explore.
I would definitely recommend this book – whilst the first section was not my cup of tea, I realize other people may love it. And if it’s not your cup of tea either , I highly recommend pushing through to get to the awesome stuff on the other side. Because whilst ‘Die For Me’ didn’t thrill me to start, it was totally worth it by the end.(less)
I was looking for a new chick lit to read – I happened to be stuck in the fantasy section at the time – when this cover caught my eye. The blurb looked good and the first page engaged me and gave me a chuckle. All in all a promising trip to the bookshop. However, the book ended up not being as good as I’d anticipated. However, despite some gripes, it did redeem itself, but I’m going to plough through the negative to get to the good stuff.
I probably would have enjoyed this book more if one of the ‘big reveals’ wasn’t revealed in the blurb. It meant that I spent the first half of the book getting incredibly bored with Jane as she continued to miss the obvious clues pointing out the nature of her soon to be in-laws. As it was the first half wasn’t so much a supernatural thrill ride, it was more of a moan fest with a bit of sex thrown in.
I’m quite happy with sex in books, but I have to admit to being a little thrown at the random (mildly explicit) sex scenes thrown in. For chick lit, there was no romance. It was pure animal attraction, which just made the whole ‘we’re so desperately in love’ thing that Jane and Malcolm were supposed to be feel rather fake.
In fact I really disliked Malcolm, right from the start where we’re supposed to like him. This isn’t a particularly great start if the hero seems like a bit of a plonker (and quickly seems to establish himself as one once they’re in New York.) as I felt I should be swooning over him at least a little?
I also struggled with how Jane got her powers. Normal girl, suddenly poof she sees some things and she knows she’s a witch. It just felt sudden and even though I was expecting it, a bit random and thrown in there. I just would have liked to have a bit more of a transition, a bit more explanation as to how Jane suddenly knows.
On a personal note whilst I love knowing about the clothes characters are wearing, every now and again it felt a little bit like I was choking on all the details. Some things just felt a bit unnecessary.
Ok onto the good stuff. After the big reveal everything started to pick up. Malcolm ran off, which I was immensely happy about. Jane started to explore her powers – she got friends, she sort of re-discovered her back bone. Excellent. The twists got twistier, everything got darker and a lot scarier, and characters that had seemed flat started to get more interesting.
I like Harris, I would like more of him please – thanks. I also like that Jane stopped moping and found herself some friends, and got pro-active and learned how to use her powers, and by the end, actually got a little bit kick ass. I also liked the final few OMG moments that came hurtling out in the last few pages. All in all, I started liking the book. I got to the point that I had expected to be all the way through, where I was sniggering and gasping and really involved with the story.
It’s just a shame that it took so long to reach that point.
The end wasn’t at all what I’d expected – I’d expected more of a happy ending, and particularly as I’d started enjoying the book so late, I really wanted more. So after a bit of searching, I’ve found that the sequel and Jane’s journey continues in “The Dark Glamour” out on August 30th 2011.
And hopefully, the next one will continue on the high that “666 park Avenue” finished on, because Pierce’s writing is very good once she got going, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes next.(less)
This book was one of the most tense and stressful ones I’ve read. Seriously, I didn’t realize until I’d finished and relaxed just how stressful it was to read – but it was so worth it, because this book is absolutely brilliant.
I love Carrie Ryan’s books, she’s an incredible writer, her prose is beautiful – haunting and morbidly terrifying all at the same time. But her true talent lies in her ability to make me feel for the characters, and the situations she puts them in to. See above and the levels of stress…
The first book in the series ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ introduced us to a world that was sunk into despair and destruction. The undead roamed the world beyond the fences, and it seemed as though the village we were introduced to was the only piece of civilisation left. It was a brilliant book, the high terror of the undead making it a thrilling ride, and the clear cut way that Ryan set out that no-one was safe. No matter the love story or romance, people could die no matter what.
Then the second book 'The Dead Tossed Waves' gave us a fresh narrator and more threats. This time it wasn’t just the un dead that washed up on the beach and pressed against the fences, now it was the authorities that were chasing them, and it became horribly clear that actually when the world ends, self preservation comes above everything else.
And then here we are with the third book, and it’s not just a few undead pressing at fences and moaning. No this time it’s a horde. The entirety of New York city awash with undead until people are forced to travel over the rooftops or underground. And even then it’s no safe. The sheer scale of destruction and force that Ryan describes is real and electrifying, and absolutely horrific. She’s not afraid to shy away and make everything fluffy and ok and have a happy ending. There is always a terror that there is no hope – which is fairly easy to slip into when not even a third of the way through the book the main characters are trapped in the last out post of civilization with the entire city overrun with dead. I mean how do you get out of that situation? I genuinely thought that was it. That everything would be futile and they’d be battling against the inevitable, but Ryan is able to pull even the tiniest slivers of hope out of terrible situations.
Again the threat from the authorities is back, but it’s even worse than last time – the sports, the attitude, the horrors that Annah faces are so horrible I can’t even really describe it. Everything is bleak, and I admired her strength that she kept fighting even through all of this. And what for? For love, for a chance at happiness, for life. It’s just so heart breaking and achingly beautiful all at the same time.
I loved the flip side of getting to know the other half of the twin set. Gabry’s point of view guided us through the second book, and now we got to see her twin Annah’s side to life. In the second book I didn’t like the sound of this other twin, the selfish one that left Gabry alone in the forest. So it was strange to suddenly find myself caring about her and seeing Gabry as the nasty one, because she had had an easier time of it and she had already found love. Annah was tortured, and was the hardest and most brittle narrator we’ve had, but she’s also seen more, in some ways survived more, and it was fascinating to grow form that tiny perspective of the village in book 1 to come to this massive city and watching it destruct.
Annah suffered from so many normal problems of teenage girls – feeling ugly, un-beautiful, broken and hard and impossible to love, and terrified to care about others in case they let her down. I cried for her, and was so amazed at her tenacity to keep going, and I think of all the narrators, she ultimately has become my favourite.
And I loved the ending. Through all of the horrors of the book (and let me tell you, it does not let up until the last page or so.) it was nice just to take a breath and go you know, it might maybe just about be ok. Ryan isn’t afraid to waft the possibility of a happy ending at you, and then go, no, not yet – let’s put some more high terror in there before any of that mush happens.
So after all that, it was amazing to finally come to the conclusion (as far as I’m aware) of the series. I think of all the books this was my favourite, but it only became that because of the build-up we’ve had over the previous two books. Without those behind it I don’t think the impact would have been the same. So if you’re looking for a new dystopian series, get going with the first book ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ and if you’re already immersed in the series, go and get hold of ‘The Dark and Hollow Places’ it’s an incredible finale to a truly great series.(less)
This book has been on my ‘to read’ list for far longer than it should have been, and I finally picked it up last week to give it the airing it deserves. Unfortunately my feelings about it were not quite as ecstatic as I initially thought they would be. I read the sequel ‘The Privilege of the Sword’ years ago and loved it (I’ve never been particularly good at reading books in the correct order.)and I thought the same would be true of Ellen Kushner’s first novel.
Whilst I loved bits of it, I found the high excitement and intrigue to be interspersed with long periods where very little happens, and the prose is like wading through syrup. Long flowing descriptions that don’t further the plot and make me inadvertently skip passages because I’m so bored. Which really irritated me, because like I said, mixed in with this is a brilliantly written story.
I love the city, the characters, the general ethos of the place. It’s like a more exciting version of Georgian England, with swordsman to settle disputes, parties, political intrigue, and where sexuality doesn’t mean a thing. That’s one of the things I found most interesting about this book was that the characters take male and female lovers left right and centre, and no one bats an eye – it was a really refreshing change – particularly in a book written in 1987 – to see sexuality not even really touched upon as an issue. It was just there, deal with it. The only thing that I was sad about, was that no relationship was even remotely happy. I suppose you could argue that Richard and Alec was partially happy, but it was also so abusive. And I like to have a bit of romance in my books. It was just hard to see why Richard actually liked Alec, other than the fact that he was dangerous.
It also set up a lot of the plots, which are some of the most brilliantly convoluted I’ve seen. The plots are brilliantly entwined, swapping from one person to the next with a speed that is sometimes dizzying. I love how many different players are involved, it helps to keep everything fluid because you’re seeing a constantly shifting shape of events as people take different courses, and the plotting becomes even more ridiculous. However, there are some pieces that are kept from the reader until the final showdown, which offers a last flurry of shocks and surprises in the final act.
The characters were really well drawn and defined, and for the most part completely engaging. I would have liked to have seen more of the Duchess and Lady Halliday, because we have a wonderful set up within the first few chapters that involves a bit more of the Hill than is then used in the rest of the book, and I thought it was shame that this set up wasn’t utilised fully. Richard comes across as a little flat sometimes, but for the most part I found him engaging enough to want to keep reading. My favourite (other than the Duchess) was always going to be Alec – I have a thing for bad boys. And his weirdly fluctuating temper puts him firmly into the bad boy category. He’ll fly from loving and touching to trying to hurt in a heart beat, and you never quite know what he might do or where he’s going next. The secrets of his past were fairly obvious, which was a shame as I would have liked a bit more mystery, particularly given how long it took to reveal what we’d already worked out.
My biggest complaint is the prose, which at times is staggeringly beautiful – the final passage of the book is a perfect example of this – but can then flip and become incredibly over wordy and boring. I ended up skimming whole passages because they weren’t imparting anything new, and they were slowing the plot down and making me just want to put the book down and give up – which was a huge shame because once you get through them, the book is brilliant. The first half is pure genius, and then I'm not sure what happened, but the action tapered off and it become a slower read with more random passages. The action picks up again a bit later, but around two thirds through the book is where I became unstuck and just wasn't as interested in the story.
It will probably be a while before I come back to ‘Swordspoint’ but I’ve already got the sequels lined up to read, because for all my complaints, it is a brilliant book, and engaging world, and I really want to immerse myself further in it and find out more.(less)